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The bright secret of battery life

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On most smartphones in active use, batteries last little more than half a day. But there is a simple secret to the real battery hog, and how to double that life, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

You know how it goes when you first get a new smartphone. Battery life is amazing for the first few days, often lasting well into the night. Then, as you download more apps and use them actively, you find yourself scrambling for a power bank or charging point by lunchtime.

We keep hearing that battery life is the next frontier of smartphone technology, and then we keep seeing dramatic advances in every aspect of the handset BUT battery life.

In the good old battery days of a decade ago, a Nokia 6310i gave you seven days’ talk time and a month on standby. The rapid advance of smartphone technology has meant that average battery life has rapidly gone down, instead of increasing, because so many more components and functions have been built on the same old batteries.

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The Nokia 6310i featured a talk time of up to a week.

Now, however, battery management functions, such as those on new Samsung, LG and Huawei devices, help to identify which apps drain the most power, and to shut down the offending tools.

But, strange to say, this doesn’t keep our phones going longer. As we keep opening new apps that we hope are less demanding, or keep open some of the apps that are indicated as having low power demands, the battery drainage continues at the same high rate.

This happens particularly while one is driving, and using navigational apps like Waze and Google Maps. The assumption that tends to be made is that it is not the app itself that is resulting in heavy battery use, but the need for the maps to be updated continuously. This results not only in an ongoing data flood, but also requires the phone to keep polling the 3G or LTE masts at base stations along the route. Surely the prime reason the battery is dying!

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Android power management apps help increase battery life.

The truth is a little simpler and a lot closer to home.

The reason Waze appears to chew up battery life faster than a puppy destroying a slipper is because it keeps alive the real battery hog: the screen display.

Check that battery management tool again: it can almost be guaranteed that half the battery usage in any given period is coming from the display. The bigger the screen, the more the display demand, and the faster the battery drain.

For this reason, entry-level smartphones with 3.5-inch screens tend to have far more battery life than the average 5-inch or 5.5-inch flagship devices. Compact editions of the Samsung Galaxy and Sony Xperia phones last longer than their bigger siblings. This is counter-intuitive merely because we expect to get better performance when we pay more.

The LG G4

The LG G4

The exception to the rule appears to be the giant-sized phablets: the 5.7” to 6” behemoths. But there is a simple reason for that, too. Most of these phones have oversized batteries, specifically to compensate for the giant displays.

It’s not an industry secret, either. Manufacturers continually point out this truth, but usually in the small print, as an afterthought, or somewhere offstage after the big launch.

All of this means that there is also a simple secret to extending battery life, while we wait for the scientists and engineers to catch up to our needs.

Every time you finish using the handset, whether for a call, a WhatsApp message or a Facebook peek, simply click the On/Off button briefly – that is, not long enough to switch off the phone, but merely to turn the display dark.

If that doesn’t at least extend your battery life into the evening, something else is going wrong with the device, or a rogue app is indeed going puppy on the battery slipper.

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee, and subscribe to his YouTube channel at http://bit.ly/GGadgets

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CES: So long, and thanks for all the beer!

Last week, the Las Vegas expo showed off its fun side with state-of-the-art technologies for enjoying beer, writes BRYAN TURNER

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From craft beer-making machines to robots that pour beer, CES had more beer than usual in Las Vegas last week. And even free beer if you found the right stand. Stampede’s saloon-style booth offered beer to visitors who tried out its latest drones, virtual reality, and other gaming products. No beer tech, though.

Here are some of the beer technologies that stood out:

LG HomeBrew – Craft beer made at home

LG’s HomeBrew craft beer-making machine,  debuted at CES 2019, brings the brewing process home thanks to single-use capsules,  a self-cleaning feature, and an algorithm optimised for fermentation. 

Like a Nespresso coffee machine, the beer maker uses capsules, which contain malt, yeast, hop oil and flavouring. At the press of a button, LG HomeBrew automates the whole procedure from fermentation and carbonation to ageing. A companion app lets users check HomeBrew’s status at any time during the process, from their handsets.

The beer machine not only offers a simple way to make craft beer, but also enhances the quality of beer it makes. The fermentation algorithm intelligently controls the fermenting process with precise temperature and pressure control. It automatically sanitises itself, using nothing more than hot water, ensuring everything is hygienically clean for the next batch.

Designed with discerning beer lovers in mind, HomeBrew allows for in-home production of batches of more than 4 litres of beer in a variety of styles. The following five distinctive, flavoured beers are available now: 

  • Hoppy American IPA
  • Golden American Pale Ale
  • Full-bodied English Stout
  • Zesty Belgian-style Witbier
  • Dry Czech Pilsner

The only catch? It takes about two weeks to make, depending on the beer type.

“LG HomeBrew is the culmination of years of home appliance and water purification technologies that we’ve developed over the decades,” said Dan Song, president of LG Electronics Home Appliance & Air Solutions Company. “Homebrewing has grown at an explosive pace, but there are still many beer lovers who haven’t taken the jump because of the barriers to entry, like complexity, and these are the consumers we think will be attracted to LG HomeBrew.”

Click here to read about the party speaker that holds beer and robots that pour beer.

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CES: Alienware gets Legend-ary

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At CES in Las Vegas last week, Dell’s Alienware released a family of high-end, thin, light, and affordable machines for both amateur and professional gamers – and a new identity.

Alienware marked CES 2019 as a brand milestone with the debut of a new design identity, Alienware Legend. It aims to set a new bar of excellence for what gamers want most – performance and function. Alienware says it evaluated multiple concepts and chose one that was the biggest and boldest departure from its current look.

Alienware Legend, says the company, stays true to the brand’s core design tenets, taking cues from its deep roots in sci-fi culture and its early industrial designs, to distinguish the brand from the rest of the industry. The new Legend design is optimised with cutting-edge thermal cooling technology to achieve and sustain overclocking power, improved AlienFX lighting, and ultra-thin screen borders. It also unveiled a new “three-knuckle hinge” design that reduces the overall dimension while creating a stronger assembly, all combining to yield a better gaming experience.

“We’re excited to come to this year’s CES with some truly groundbreaking products, next-gen software and strategic partnerships that will bring more people to experience PC gaming and advance the industry,” said Frank Azor, vice president and general manager of Alienware. “The legend design answers the call for more and better from our gaming community, and the new G Series laptops will make PC gaming even more accessible to those looking for high-performance gaming at a cost they can appreciate.”

Click here to read about Alienware Legend in action with the Area-51m and m-series laptops

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